Wednesday, 16 October 2013

The mystery of Movember’s mission

I worry about Movember, the forthcoming moustaches-for-men’s-health fest. You’ll have read earlier in this blog about fears that the charity markets itself better than it markets men’s health issues. But I also worry that this global campaign, with an increasingly impressive UK profile involving the likes of Gary Lineker and Stephen Fry, is not as transparent as it could be. 
I think that the British public – who go out and raise millions of pounds for Movember every year – is getting pretty poor information about what the charity does with that money to improve men’s health in the UK.
Let me explain. Way back at the start of April this year, I contacted Movember UK about an article I wanted to write for The Times – a piece about the men’s health issues that really needed addressing in the UK. I thought I could base the piece around examples of current Movember initiatives. If I followed the £27 million people raised for Movember in 2012, saw how it was carved up into different areas of men’s health, I would have the shape of a piece that could take Movember initiatives as examples of areas that required action.
Sounds simple, but Movember found the question difficult to answer. Which was difficult for me too because it was the basis of my projected piece. So I persisted. They explained that UK annual figures weren’t to hand because Movember was a global organisation and many of its objectives were strategic and long-term. Not all funds were spent straight away, and some funds were as yet unallocated. They told me that they’d get something together for me, and then later in the year they’d have global report cards available which would provide absolute transparency about where all the UK Movember funds went. 
Nearly two months after my initial enquiry, Movember came back with some “top line notes” of Movember’s funds in action in the UK, without any figures or proportions attached. If I looked up each individual project on their website, I could perhaps work out (if I had a spare week) how much the totals were. 
Surely, I said, even given the difficulties, you must have a general idea of fund allocation each year. Movember says that its focus is on men’s health, prostate cancer, testicular cancer and mental health; it says its main programme areas are awareness and education, living with and beyond cancer, staying mentally healthy and research. So roughly, out of every pound raised by a mo, how much went into each area?
Movember continued to be charming. But it was not until 28th June, nearly three months after my initial enquiry, that they sent me a breakdown of Movember’s current activity in the UK.
Here it is. You won’t find these figures anywhere else – not even in the now published, much-vaunted global report cards now on their website (which still only give a global picture, and still tell you about projects rather than funding priorities). Movember told me these figures were preliminary.

2011 and 2012 
Movember raised a total of £48.9 million in the UK.
£3.2 million goes to awareness and education
Movember explains: “The delivery of the annual Movember campaign which gets men to grow moustaches and the community to support them leading to conversations about men’s health. This leads to greater awareness and understanding...”
£3.9 million goes to Movember’s Global Action Plan
Movember explains: “By bringing together international researchers, GAP facilitates a new and unprecedented level of global research collaboration, not previously seen within the prostate cancer community.” 
£15 million goes to Prostate Cancer UK for research
Movember explains: “Prostate Cancer UK’s new research strategy focuses attention on effectively identifying those men more at risk, detecting the aggressiveness of the disease and developing more effective treatments.”
£14.5 million goes to Prostate Cancer UK for projects supporting men with prostate cancer
Movember explains: “Working with Prostate Cancer UK, Movember is funding survivorship programmes aiming to ensure that men living with prostate cancer have the care needed to be physically and mentally well.”
£3.8 million goes to Prostate Cancer UK for policy and influencing
Movember explains: “Movember funds some policy, evaluation and education activities thorough Prostate Cancer UK to ensure that activities are being delivered effectively with the intended outcomes.”
£0.9 million goes to the Institute of Cancer Research
Movember explains: “The ICR’s Movember funded work focuses on a world class testicular cancer research programme which studies the genetic basis of testicular cancer.” 
(You can see where non-programme funds went here

Knowing the proportion of UK Movember funds spends on different programmes is important. When a charity reaches the size of Movember, transparency becomes more and more of an issue. Movember are doing nothing legally wrong in not making the information above widely available: their accounts are audited, public, and lodged with the Charity Commission. Charities are not required to break down their total figure for charitable activities into individual projects. So Movember are fulfilling all their obligations.
But for an organisation that claims on its website to be “committed to best practice levels of transparency, accountability and governance”, it is, as a senior figure in the charity world told me, lagging way behind many other UK charities that are making a point of demonstrating to fundraisers exactly where the money goes. 
These new figures are also important because they make clear that:
  1. Movember’s awareness and education work attracts a small proportion of its funds. This work in the UK consists almost entirely of “inspiring literally billions of conversations” through moustache growing, and posting health information on its website. Its advice on prostate checks has been criticised as unhelpful by some UK doctors. Margaret McCartney wrote eloquently on this in the British Medical Journal. 
  2. More than £33 million of the £41.3 million allocated funds go to one charity, Prostate Cancer UK. 
  3. 90% of the allocated funds are spent on prostate cancer (currently the Global Action Plan concentrates on prostate cancer). Movember UK insists it is not a prostate cancer organisation, but a men’s health organisation. Peter Baker, until last year Chief Executive of the Men’s Health Forum, has pointed out the difficulty of claiming (as Movember does) that you are “changing the face of men’s health” if nearly all your funds go towards a condition that causes just 4% of all male deaths. 
  4. No funds are currently allocated to mental health in the UK, even though throughout its UK website Movember says men with mos “raise vital funds and awareness for prostate and testicular cancer and mental health”. Movember UK told me there will be more emphasis on mental health in the coming years.
So the question raised itself: does Movember know which men’s health issues in the UK need addressing most? My feature, as I planned it, was scuppered. I went to talk to Sarah Coghlan, Movember’s UK Director, to explore things further, and will report on that conversation in a future post.